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La Vuelta!

After the turmoil of 2020, the road race calendar seems to have settled back into routine for 2021. We are now safely two grand tours down having seen Egan Bernal regain his form to claim the Giro in May and Tadej Pogačar successfully defend his Tour de France title with a dominating performance. The Vuelta is now in full swing, which due to it’s appearance towards the end of the season, always provides drama and unpredictability, through a combination of tired legs and brutal climbs.

Here’s our quick overview of La Vuelta a Espana.

Photo: John Cameron

The History

La Vuelta a Espana was established in 1935 by Spanish newspaper Informaciones, following the success of the Giro and the Tour. Until 1995 the race was held in April/May but was eventually moved to August/September, to avoid competing with the more prestigious, Giro d’Italia.

As the name suggests, the race travels through Spain over a period of three weeks – 21 stages (race days) with two rest days.

Throughout its history many of cycling’s greats have taken the overall win; Raymond Poulidor, Bernard Hinault and Sean Kelly to name a few. But such is its unpredictability, just as many favourites have failed, including Miguel Indurain, who despite dominating the Tour de France in the early 90s, was never able to win his home grand tour.

The jerseys

The red jersey – the overall winner of the general classification. I.e. the rider who takes the least amount of time to complete all 21 stages. Although now red, it has been various colours in the past including gold, orange, white and yellow, usually reflecting the brand colours of the main sponsor.

The polka dot jersey – the winner of the mountains classification – essentially awarded to the best climber. Points are awarded to the first rider to reach the top of classified climbs. You’ll also get slightly fewer points for being second or third etc. The rider with the most points wins the jersey.

The green jersey – the points jersey, or sprinter’s jersey. Points are awarded at finish lines (on sprint stages) and intermediate sprints throughout the race.

The white jersey – the best young rider jersey. This is awarded to the best young rider (under 25) in the general classification.

Photo: Rob Wingate

This year’s race

This year’s race is running from 14th August to 5th September. There are a staggering 9 uphill finishes, which so far have delivered some exciting racing in the GC. We also see the return of a long 33km individual time trial on the final stage rather than the usual procession into Madrid, which could prove decisive.

The race kicked off with a 7.1km time trial and the first summit finish appeared as early as stage three. Here’s our five talking points from the first week:

  • Primoz Roglič has the red jersey and seems to be the one to beat after the first week, no doubt buoyed by his Time Trial gold at the Olympics and spurred on by his disappointing run at the Tour.
  • Ineos leader and Giro winner, Egan Bernal has put in some strong performances but was unable to stay with the changes of pace on the final climb on Stage 9, losing over a minute to the red jersey.
  • Richard Carapaz has been unable to continue his Olympic gold medal winning form into the Vuelta, losing a massive 8 minutes to Roglič on the day before the rest day.
  • Spanish star and former World Champion, Alejandro Valverde abandoned following a heavy crash and a fractured collarbone.
  • Fabio Jakobsen has won two sprint stages, marking the end of his comeback from his horrific crash at the Tour of Poland last year, putting him in green at the first rest day.

No doubt there’s more drama left to unfold; whilst it may look like Roglič’s race to lose, with a relatively slender lead of 28 seconds, this race is far from over.

Vamos!